Firm Pushing for New York Pipeline Loses at 2nd Circuit

MANHATTAN (CN) – Upholding the denial of a permit that would make New York home to a 125-mile natural-gas pipeline, the Second Circuit found Friday that the state is entitled to conduct its own environmental-impact review.

The Constitution Pipeline Company petitioned the federal appeals court for review last year after the New York State Department of Environmental Conversation declined to certify that a federally approved, 30-inch pipeline would comply with state water-quality standards.

New York Attorney General’s Office notes that the pipeline’s construction would disturb 100 miles of undeveloped lands in central New York and cross more than 250 streams and 80 acres of wetlands.

In denying Constitution Pipeline a permit, the department accused the company of refusing to provide information regarding alternative routes, construction methods and other cumulative impacts despite repeated requests.

Siding with the DEC unanimously Friday, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit found that the agency’s standards for review are not arbitrary.

“A state’s consideration of a possible alternative route that would result in less substantial impact on its waterbodies is plainly within the state’s authority,” U.S. Circuit Judge Amalya Kearse wrote for the panel.

“In sum, NYSDEC is responsible for evaluating the environmental impacts of a proposed pipeline on New York waterbodies in light of the State’s water quality standards,” Kearse added.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman celebrated the decision.

“New York must be able to do what’s necessary to protect our environment – and we’re glad that the court agreed,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

“It would be unacceptable for a pipeline – or any project – to pollute our waters and undermine New Yorkers’ health and water resources,” he added. “Today’s decision marks a major win for New Yorkers, and for the State’s right to take the actions necessary to protect the public and our environment. My office stands ready to continue to vigorously defend New Yorkers’ right to a safe and healthy environment from all who may harm it.”

Constitution Pipeline was represented in the case by Philadelphia attorney John Stoviak. Though Stoviak did not return a request for comment, Constitution Pipeline criticized New York’s denial of its permit in April last year.

“We believe NYSDEC’s stated rationale for the denial includes flagrant misstatements and inaccurate allegations, and appears to be driven more by New York State politics than by environmental science,” according to a statement on Constitution Pipeline’s sponsors.

The lengthy statement includes many counterpoints to the state’s findings.

 “Completely contrary to NYSDEC’s assertion, we provided detailed drawings and profiles for every stream crossing in New York, including showing depth of pipe,” the statement says. “In fact, all stream crossings were fully vetted with the NYSDEC throughout the review process. We are appalled with the comments that Constitution failed to provide sufficient data to ensure every crossing was totally in compliance with the NYSDEC guidelines.”

The project was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in December 2014, and the company claims on its website that once completed, the pipeline will be able to transport enough natural gas per day to serve about 3 million homes in New York and neighboring regions.

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